Black Turpentine Beetle
The Black Turpentine Beetle is a pine bark beetle native to the southeastern United States. Although it usually breeds in freshly cut pine stumps, it can attack and kill stressed or storm-damaged evergreen trees. Occasionally, Black Turpentine Beetle populations can reach levels where seemingly healthy pines are attacked.
At 5 – 10 mm the stout Black Turpentine Beetle is noticeable larger than other pine bark beetles. The body color is dark, ranging from reddish-brown to black. The head of the beetle is visible from above, the abdomen is rounded, and the antennae are clubbed. Attacks from Black Turpentine Beetles occur near the base of the tree.
TREES AND SHRUBS ATTACKED BY BLACK TURPENTINE BEETLE
Although any southern pine may be attacked, the most commonly attacked trees are Loblolly Pine, (Pinus taeda), Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata), and Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii). In the northeast Black Turpentine Beetle has been known to attack Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii), Red Spruce (Picea rubens), and Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris).
SYMPTOMS OF BLACK TURPENTINE BEETLE INFESTATION
Most attacks will be found in the lowest 2 – 3 feet of the trunk with occasionally activity occurring as high as 15 feet above the ground. Black Turpentine Beetle may also attack the tree right at the root collar or even bore into large roots below ground level.
The tree reacts to Black Turpentine Beetle attacks by emmiting large amounts of tree sap. A “pitch tube” begins to develop as a result of the beetle boring and the high level of sap flow. The pitch tube will be about 1 inch in diameter and the pitch tube will take on a reddish color due to the blending of tree sap, sawdust, and insect frass. The pitch tubes eventually turn a grayish-red color.
Although a tree can withstand a small number of attacks, multiple attacks will cause a significant disruption of the flow of water and nutrients within the tree. Additionally, beetle-damaged pines may become infected with blue-stain fungus. The blue-stain fungus further interferes with the transport of water and nutrients in the cambium of the tree.
Black Turpentine Beetles can be found from Maine, south to Florida, and as far west as eastern Texas.
Black Turpentine Beetle completes its lifecycle in 2 – 4 months depending on localized temperatures. It does not have a dormant phase and all life stages may be found in a single tree. While most attacks take place from the spring to the fall, adult Black Turpentine Beetles may be found any time of the year in the southern portion of its range.
HOW TO CONTROL BLACK TURPENTINE BEETLE
As mentioned earlier, Black Turpentine Beetle prefers stressed or damaged trees. Prevention and proper plant health care is the best way to keep attacks from occurring and to help damaged trees recover if they are attacked.
Preventative insecticide treatments should be applied to the lowest 6 feet of the trunk starting in the spring. The spray should saturate the soil around the base of the tree as attacks may occur at the root collar or on large, below surface roots. Spraying higher than 6 feet may be necessary if the tree has already been attacked and pitch tubes can be seen higher up on the trunk.
Maintain tree health by watering during the drier summer months, mulching under the canopy of the trees and avoiding soil compaction or other root damage. Spring or fall deep-root fertilization may be necessary to improve tree vigor.